With the death of a Liberian man in Lagos, the death toll has finally reached Nigeria in what has been described as the most deadly Ebola virus outbreak in the recorded history of mankind.
Onyebuchi Chukwu, the country’s health minister, told Reuters that a 40-year-old consultant for the Liberian Finance Ministry named Patrick Sawyer collapsed after arriving by plane in Lagos on Sunday and died in quarantine on Friday.
“His blood sample was taken to the advance laboratory at the Lagos University teaching hospital, which confirmed the diagnosis of the Ebola virus disease in the patient,” Chukwu said at a press conference. “This result was corroborated by other laboratories outside Nigeria.”
Conflicting information is being reported by city officials in Lagos about the virus being identified as actually being Ebola. There, Health Commissioner Jide Idris reported at a different press conference that officials were only “assuming that it was Ebola,” since they were still awaiting official a double-blind confirmation from Dakar scientists.
The World Health Organization confirms that assessment. Paul Garwood, WHO spokesman in Geneva, said that “we’re still waiting for laboratory-confirmed results as to whether he died of Ebola or not.”
If confirmed, this would be the first case of the virus in Nigeria, Africa’s most prosperous and populated country, with 170 million people. Since February, 660 people have been killed by Ebola in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. As many as 1,093 cases of Ebola infection have been reported in this, West Africa’s very first outbreak of the virus.
Officials in Nigeria hope that by quickly quarantining Sawyer, whose sister died of the virus three weeks ago, and anyone with whom Sawyer came in contact, they were able to keep the Ebola virus from spreading to the city.
“The fear of spread within a dense population would be offset by better healthcare and a willingness to use it, easier contact tracing and, I assume for an urban population, less risky funerary and family rites,” said Ian Jones, a virology professor at Great Britain’s University of Reading. “It would be contained more easily than in rural populations.”
A day before the harrowing news in Nigeria, the WHO opened a new satellite Ebola Coordination Center in Guinea. During the opening ceremony, the new center’s director, Dr. Luis G. Sambo, said that this outbreak is unlike any other in history “by the number of countries affected, its trans-border nature, its spread to the capital of the countries, the proliferation of the foci of the disease within the same country, the serious impact on health workers and the difficulty to understand the underlying socio-anthropological aspects of community behaviors.”
[Image courtesy of TVC News]